Family to Seek Emergency Order on Medical Marijuana

by Celeste Whitaker | Courier Post | Photo by John Ziomek

MAPLE SHADE – The family of an autistic, epileptic Maple Shade teen say they’ll continue the legal battle to administer medical marijuana to their daughter on school grounds.

The Barbour family had planned to file an emergency order Monday in hopes of forcing the school district to allow Genny Barbour’s mother to give Genny medical marijuana at school.

Last week, Administrative Law Judge John Kennedy denied the family’s appeal of an earlier ruling — again siding with the Larc School in Bellmawr and the Maple Shade School District — upholding their argument that state law does not allow the administration of medical marijuana on school grounds.

Kennedy ruled the school and the district “are mandated to comply with the Drug Free School Zone Act,” which enforces tougher penalties for drugs within a 1,000-foot zone around a school and said there also exists a “potential conflict between state and federal law.”

The judge also cited the state’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which only allows patients and their caregivers who are registered with the health department to possess marijuana.

Kennedy noted Lora Barbour, Genny’s mother, “has the ability to assert an affirmative defense against charges of possession or distribution of medical marijuana to (her daughter) even on school grounds.”

Roger Barbour — who is representing his daughter in court — argues Kennedy’s statement leaves open the possibility for Genny’s mother, her registered caregiver, to administer a dose of cannabis oil to the girl at school.

Barbour sent a letter to the school board Wednesday letting officials know his wife intended to go to the school on Monday to administer the oil. Attorneys for the school board and the school, however, told the family they would not allow it.

“The school is now refusing to allow Lora to come to the school, so we have no choice,” Barbour said. “They requested that the judge clarify his decision. They sent a letter at 4:50 on Friday afternoon to Judge Kennedy asking that he clarify his decision as to Lora’s rights.”

Patrick Madden, an attorney for the Maple Shade Township Board of Education, declined comment Monday. But in a copy of his written response to Barbour, he called the family’s interpretation of the decision “a tortured reading” and wrote that “we do not agree with your assessment or understanding of the ALJ’s opinion.”

In a letter to the judge’s office last week, Aileen F. Droughton, an attorney for the Larc School, asked for clarification but also stated that “The Larc School does not agree with petitioner’s and her counsel’s reading of the decision” and that the school “submits that the decision is clear and establishes no right to administer medical marijuana on school grounds.”

The family says it plans to appeal Kennedy’s ruling in federal court as well.

While New Jersey legalized marijuana use for certain medical conditions, including seizure disorders, the drug is currently still classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law, which means the federal government considers it a dangerous substance with no medicinal value.

Since April, the family’s been picking Genny, 16, up from school at noon and bringing her home to administer her second of four prescribed doses of medical marijuana. Genny does not return to school after going home for the noon dose because it is too disruptive to her routine, the family contends.

The medical marijuana helps control Genny’s seizures and calm her behavior. The Barbours say without the noon dose her behavior has become increasingly disruptive at school.

They are now also requesting the school document with video anytime a school employee has to restrain their daughter as a method of correcting aggressive behavior.

The Barbours filed a suit against the school and the district last year. Kennedy ruled in favor of the district and school in January, and the family appealed that ruling in June.

The family is also hoping recent legislation on the state and federal levels will bolster their case.

Two months ago, a bill was introduced that limits the use of medical marijuana in school for children with a developmental disability who are also registered with the state’s medical marijuana program.

The measure would force school districts to adopt a policy allowing for medical marijuana use and would authorize parents, guardians or primary caregivers to administer medical marijuana in a non-smokable form in a location designated by the school.

However, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican candidate for president, hasn’t signed the bill into law.

Also, earlier this year, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act, or CARERS Act was introduced. If enacted, the legislation would make it illegal for federal agencies to interfere with state laws permitting medical marijuana and would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug.

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